Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Still a Boy Racer | The 2012 Honda Civic Si

Unlike many of my good friends, I don't like the Fast and Furious film franchise. It's the fact that it ruined car culture for most of the Naughties that gets me.  Viewers came out of the theaters thinking they could make their cars like the ones in the film, so they looked for their local Xzibit to pimp their ride.  I feel bad for all those small Japanese cars that fell victim to all the terrible modifications inflicted upon them in the years after the first film was released.

The car that suffered most from this sort of “mutilation” was the Honda Civic. Its affordability and excellent driving dynamics made it a perfect choice among modifiers. And, in particular, it was the loud and revvy Civic Si version which really stirred the hearts of those both Fast and Furious.

But things are changing. The number of modified cars on the road seems to have declined. Instead of body kits it's more usual to see some window tinting and shiny rims. Perhaps people have matured, or perhaps the Fast and the Furious exchanged ricers for, uh... South America.

The new Civic Si has shown signs of maturity too. Where the old Civic had a tiny engine with enormous power thanks to high revs, the new one has an Acura engine. It's the 2.4 Litre Inline 4 that has been powering the Acura TSX. And with the engine, has come a character change. Horsepower is up only 4 to a total of 201. Its in the torque where things have changed immensely, up 22 percent to 170 lbs-ft.

There is a decent grunt in the engine low down. It can be felt in city traffic where the Si is a really easy car to live with. Unlike before, It doesn't need to rev like crazy to get anywhere. And on the freeway you can just pop it into 6th and live life.

The handling is quite mature too. The ride is no worse than in the regular Civic despite the sportified suspension, and around corners the Si just obeys. As I was driving around town I couldn't help but think how easy  it is to drive.

So it seems that with the character change the Si has grown up, had children and settled down. Well... not quite, because there's still a boy racer inside. Punch the gas pedal down hard and that engine roars. The Si is loud, especially in coupe form, a basic requirement of any boy racer. It's also fast, you can expect 60mph to come in the mid 6s. And when you shift from first to second, you're guaranteed to chirp the tires, satisfying to any boy racer. This is partly because of the Si's ferocious torque, but it's also caused by a little annoyance.

When you push the clutch in to change gears the engine holds the revs at where you last left them. This makes smooth up-shifting rather difficult. I felt like I was learning to drive standard again.

BTW: Navigation comes with all Si's
In the looks department Honda made those few changes to set the Si apart from a normal sedate Civic. At the front there's a sporty honeycomb grille and in the sedan the chrome mustache is replaced with a black one. The Si gets bespoke 17” inch rims which look fantastic. And of course there is badging to let people know that this Civic has DOHC and i-VTEC. Lastly on the back is a rear spoiler, that's not enormous.

All in all I have to say that the Si changes do make the Civic look better, especially the sedan. The coupe however is a bit of a humdinger. It looks better at certain angles and worse at others, and I can't quite pin point which angles those are. 

Inside the coupe is much smaller than the sedan. I did not have enough headroom in any of the seats which aren't very comfortable anyway. The driver's seat may be height adjustable but it didn't go low enough. And the recline ratchet didn't have that in between setting I really wanted. I either reclined like most Escalade drivers or sat bolt upright with my hair sticking out of the sunroof. Yes I will admit I'm rather tall, which affects things.

As for cost, it's one price fits all. Expect to see around $27,300 on the window sticker. That does seem like a lot when compared to a better equipped Civic EX-L. But it's much less expensive compared to the other boy racers like the VW GTI, MazdaSpeed3, and Nissan Sentra SE-R (do people even know that Nissan sells that?)

No, the new Si isn't perfect, but it's most definitely still a boy racer. A boy racer that has grown up, finally got a job and become a productive torquey car.

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